Education: background information

Sources and references are shown in blue as links which you may click on for more information.

Funding for schools

Financially there are two types of schools:

  • Independently funded: fee paying "private" or "public" schools. These are not covered on the rest of this page.
  • Taxpayer funded: "state" schools. These used to be local authority schools but they are rapidly moving towards centrally controlled academies 100% funded by taxpayers.

    Please click here for the CofE's advice to its schools about becoming academies.

There are 24,328 schools in England.

  • Primary: 16,971 schools with 4,093,710 pupils.
  • Secondary: 3,127 schools with 3,055,460 pupils.

Why don't the numbers add up? The total number of schools includes nursery schools.

Schools of a religious character:

  • Church of England: 4,443 primary (26% of all primaries) and 221 secondary (7% of all secondary). Total 1,000,000 pupils.
  • Catholic: 2,257 schools (11% of all primary and secondary schools). Total 838,767 pupils.
  • Others: Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Judaist, other-Christian. Relatively small numbers.

Total CofE and Catholic schools: 6,921 primary and secondary schools: 34.4% of the total.

The CofE has 80 sponsored and 277 converter academies and these numbers are growing.

Total educational spending in England: 74.8 billion.

The CofE spends 15 million per year on education - almost all of this goes on diocesan staff and administration costs.

All schools are 100% funded by local and national taxpayers - via local authorities or the Department For Education (DfE)

There is a small exception for voluntary aided schools (mainly religious) where taxpayers pay 100% of running costs and 90% of all capital costs. Voluntary controlled schools (mainly religious) are 100% funded by taxpayers.

Converting an aided religious school, or a private religious school, into an academy means that the tax payer picks up 100% of all costs - the church is not required to make even a token contribution. This has brought to light some unacceptable practises.

CofE planning

"The way ahead" (also known as "The Dearing Report") outlines the Church of England's planning in relation to education.

Nationwide we are seeing a steady transfer of schools to the CofE (often against local objections) so the plan drawn up in 2001 is still very much on the table with the full support of first the Blair Government and now the Conservative/Liberal government.

The Labour party continues to support the increase in religious schools. No party has been bold enough to state that children have the right to make a free and informed decision about what to believe - children's rights take second place to political expediency.

Types of school

Schools have many different labels which are usually the result of previous political tinkering - every unqualified Secretary of State for Education wants "to make a personal mark" by playing about with education rather then letting the professionals get on with it. Secretaries of State have never faced a year 10 on a windy and wet Friday afternoon - it's a case of "do what I tell you to do" instead of "do what I can show you how to do."

For example:

  • "Foundation schools" set up by the Blair government were designed to give the school more freedom in how it allocated its budgets - though that budget was still provided by local and national taxpayers.
  • "City Technology Colleges: CTCs" (such as Landau Forte in Derby) were set up by the Thatcher government to involve local businesses in funding and running schools - in theory businesses were supposed to provide 10% of the funding - but that never happened.

    The experiment was not a success (businesses did not see their business as paying for and running schools) and the requirement for businesses to provide funding was dropped and CTCs are now encouraged to become academies in order to benefit from 100% taxpayer funding. Landau Forte is now an academy.

Approximately one third of schools in Derby and Derbyshire are "of a religious character" - mainly CofE primary schools. The CofE originally established schools in the 18th/19th centuries for the benefit of whole communities - there was no other form of education. In many rural areas the CofE primary school remains the only school available for children from all sorts of backgrounds.

Catholic schools are different - they were established specifically to educate the children of catholic parents. (There are, of course, no Christian/Muslim/Hindu children, only Christian/Muslim/Hindu parents.)

Main types of schoool:

Local Authority These schools are under the democratic control of the local authority. As such they:
  • Follow the National Curriculum.
  • Employ qualified teachers.
  • Recognise teacher trade unions
  • Pay nationally negotiated salaries.
  • Contribute to teachers' pensions.
  • Meet national regulations relating to health and safety, quality of school meals etc.
  • Follow the local Agreed Syllabus for RE.
  • Are regularly inspected by the local authority and Ofsted.
Academies The position with academies is very complex because policy seems to have been "we will make it up as we go along" - bowing to political whims at the time - it is now almost a true state of anarchy outside the democratic control of the local authority.

Please click here for a government document about the role of RE in different types of academies.


  • Do not have to follow the National Curriculum. (So, what is the point of the National Curriculum?)
  • Do not have to employ qualified teachers.
  • Do not have to recognise teacher trade unions
  • Do not have to pay nationally negotiated salaries.
  • Do not have to contribute to teachers' pensions.
  • Do not have to meet national regulations relating to health and safety, quality of school meals etc.
  • Do not have to follow the local Agreed Syllabus for RE.
  • Are not inspected by the local authority though they are inspected by Ofsted

Academies are affectively independent. Under the Blair government the plan was for "sponsors" (individuals and companies) to pay a contribution of 20% towards the capital cost of new buildings. When sponsors were unwilling to do this the requirement was dropped to 10% or 2 million (whichever was the lower). When sponsors still did not come forward, or failed to make the promised payments, the requirement for any funding from sponsors was dropped entirely.

Many of the original sponsors were deeply religious - in some cases teaching creationism as science.

The path is now open for sponsors to benefit financially from running academies so more "corporate" bodies have become involved. The benefits may be in terms of "services" (consultancy and management fees) or through direct contracts with the schools.

For example, Alan Lewis, Conservative Party Vice Chairman and sponsor of the Kings Science Academy in Bradford, will benefit by a minimum of 6 million in rental payments as a result of the school being built on land he owns.

In the case of the Kings Science Academy, and several other academies, allegations of corruption and nepotism are being investigated.

Unlike Local Authority schools, academies have no oversight apart from periodic Ofsted inspections. The government has belatedly responded to concerns about this by proposing regional "Chancellors" with staff to oversee academies. Yet another layer of bureaucracy is being introduced by a government claiming to "free schools from the shackles of local authority control" - so much for "the bonfire of the quangos."

Most academies were previously local authority schools. Some are new builds - in many cases where central government denied the local authority the right to build a new school of its own.

Many previously private religious schools have become academies to take advantage of taxpayer funding.

Free schools These are the same as academies.

Free schools tend to have a more informal start than academies. Originally the government talked about converting unused buildings into schools where there was "community demand" and where the schools could be run "by the community".

The debacle over schools such as Al Madinah in Derby has caused a slight re-think.

Faith schools There are three types of religiously segregated schools:
  • Controlled: religious representatives sit on the board of governors but the ultimate control is with the local authority.

    These schools have to follow the local Agreed Syllabus for RE.

  • Aided: local authority representatives sit on the board of governors but the ultimate control is with the religious representatives.

    These schools do not have to follow the local Agreed Syllabus for RE - though in Derby and Derbyshire they do.

  • Academies or free schools: these are academies "with a religious character." They are not under local democratic control and they can teach what they like in RE.

Facts about faith schools:

  • The origin of these schools goes back to the 1944 Education Act when Christianity (CofE and Catholic) could no longer afford to provide an acceptable standard of education.
  • One third of all schools in Derby and Derbyshire are faith schools, mainly CofE and Catholic.
  • They are permitted to discriminate in the employment of all staff - from teachers to cleaners.
  • If the school is oversubscribed 50% of places are allocated according to the religion of parents and 50% are allocated not based on religion.

    If the 50% of places not based on religion are not taken up they can be offered to religious parents. This explains why Al Madinah Islamic School in Derby has 100% of pupils from a Pakistani Muslim background and why most pupils in Catholic schools have Catholic parents.

  • Studies have shown that faith schools do not contain a fair mixture of pupils from different backgrounds and there are numerous cases of parents moving into particular areas, or starting to attend church even though they may not be religious, in order to get their children into particular schools.
  • Some faith schools, such as Al Madinah in Derby, are segregated on both religious and racial/ethnic lines since all pupils come from Muslim Pakistani backgrounds.
  • They can determine their own RE syllabus and there is no requirement for them to study any religion other than the one on which the school is based. CofE schools in Derby and Derbyshire follow the local Agreed Syllabus for RE.
  • In reality many CofE schools are "community" schools serving all children from a local area - this is particularly the case in rural areas where the CofE school may be the only one available.
  • Catholic schools tend to have a higher number of pupils from a religious background than CofE schools. Catholic schools do not follow the Agreed Syllabus for RE.
  • Vicars and priests tend to turn up a lot in CofE and Catholic schools so the question is: "are pupils being provided with a balanced view of religion and belief so they can make a free and informed choice about what to believe?"
  • Catholic schools frequently invite speakers who support their own view of the world - for example, SPUC is invited to present a highly emotive view on abortion. A balancing view is rarely presented.
  • Atheist Humanists are rarely invited to speak in faith schools - balance may go as far as teaching about Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism and Hinduism but certainly not about Atheist Humanism. The possibility of leading a happy and responsible life without gods and religions is not one presented by faith schools.

On a positive note: many of us attended faith schools which made us the atheists we are today.

NOTE: all of the schools described above, including faith schools, are 100% funded by taxpayers.

Selection at age 11

A small number of English local authorities still operate educational selection at age 11 - the "11 plus" examination. Those selected go to Grammar schools while those who fail go to Secondary Modern schools.

In any year the number selected is determined not by how well an individual does in the examination but by the number of Grammar school places available.

In any one year approximately 15-20% are deemed to have "passed" while 80-85% are labelled as "failures".

Derby and Derbyshire do not operate selection at age 11 - all local authority secondary schools are comprehensive.

Please click here for more details.

Year groups, key stages etc.

Year Age Key stage Comment
1 4-5 1 Primary infants
2 5-6 1 Primary infants
3 6-7 2 Primary juniors
4 7-8 2 Primary juniors
5 9-10 2 Primary juniors
6 10-11 2 Primary juniors
7 11-12 3 Secondary
8 12-13 3 Secondary
9 13-14 3 Secondary
10 14-15 4 Secondary. Start of GCSE courses.
11 15-16 4 Secondary. GCSE examinations.
12 16-17 Sixth form or college. Start of "A" level and other courses.
13 17-18 Sixth form or college. "A" level and other examinations.

Each subject on the National Curriculum has a number of "levels" to assess how far pupils have advanced in that subject. The number of levels, and the meaning of those levels, varies from subject to subject.

More information is available on the DfE web site.

Religion in schools

Please click here for a government document about the role of RE in different types of academies.

We have tried to provide direct links to official reference material on all aspects of religion in schools:


  • The RE syllabus is defined locally by the SACRE - there is no national RE syllabus.
  • Those whose beliefs are not religious have no legal right to be members of SACREs though some SACRE's co-opt Humanist representatives. Such representatives have no voting rights.
  • Most Agreed Syllabuses, such as those in Derby and Derbyshire, involve learning about a wide range of religions and beliefs including "a non-theist world view such as Humanism."
  • Schools with a majority of pupils from non-Christian backgrounds may apply to the local SACRE for a "determination" so that their act of worship and RE do not have to be of a broadly Christian nature. Only a tiny number of schools do this - usually those with large numbers of pupils from Muslim or Hindu backgrounds.
  • For logistical reasons most secondary schools break the law by not having a daily act of corporate worship for all pupils. Nothing is ever done about this despite it being part of the SACRE's remit to ensure that both worship and RE are carried out correctly.

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